Residency & Beyond

How to Be a Pharmacist

Pharmacists have the unique responsibility of dispensing pharmaceuticals (or medication) to patients. They also have the responsibility to educate them on how to safely use their medications. This profession requires great attention to details as mistakes can have immense consequences. Pharmacists provide the knowledge that allows medicine to play a vital and safe role in the healthcare system.


As with most advanced health career, the road to becoming a pharmacist can seem long and challenging. However, the rewards make it worth all the training and sacrifice one had to take. Below is a typical path someone must take to become a pharmacist. You can also view a pharmacy school general timeline on how to be a pharmacist.


{slider=1. Graduate from High School (~4 years)}

What courses should I take?
Pharmacists have to have an extremely sharp and conscientious mind. They also need to have vast knowledge in science and mathematics. Their everyday life on the job requires them to apply both scientific and mathematical concepts. If you are serious about entering this demanding field, you should start preparing as early as high school. Take many challenging courses, especially in the subjects math and science.

{/slider}{slider=2. Graduate from an Undergraduate College (~4 years)}

What should I major in?
Prospective pharmacists can major in any field as an undergraduate student as long as they take the courses required to apply to pharmacy school. These courses generally include biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, English, physiology, microbiology, and biochemistry. Every school can vary on their requirements and so it is the responsibility of the applicant to research the requirements before they apply. It is important that prospective students perform well in their classes, especially the required science courses.

What standardized test should I take?
In addition to the required coursework, most students should take a standardized test called the Pharmacy College Admission Test, or PCAT. More than two-thirds of pharmacy schools in the United States require that their applicants take this test. It is the responsibility of the applicant to research each school’s requirement regarding this examination. It is often recommended that students take the PCAT so that they have a wider array of options when they start applying. However, each student should research their potential schools and determine for him or herself whether the time it takes to invest in the PCAT is worth it. There are certain cases when it can be better for students to not invest time in the PCAT so that they can focus more on their coursework.

Do I need to graduate?
To enter pharmacy school, applicants must complete at least two or three years of undergraduate study. However, most pharmacists have a bachelor’s degree from their undergraduate institution. Some pharmacy schools require a bachelor’s degree, while most of the others recommend it. Though not a requirement to become a pharmacist, it is usually wise to plan to earn a bachelor’s degree.

What factors do pharmacy schools consider?
Pharmacy schools consider a variety of factors when deciding whether to accept or reject an applicant. Usually, the most important factor in determining your admissions is your academic history, your GPA and test scores (if applicable). However, they also consider other factors such as recommendation letters, work and volunteer experience, and leadership skills. It is important to have experience in a pharmacy setting as this is the only way to truly know if you want to be a pharmacist.

{/slider}{slider=3. Graduate from Pharmacy School (~3 years)}

What is pharmacy school like?
The next step in becoming a pharmacist is to enroll in pharmacy school. The degree you earn after you graduate is a doctor of pharmacy, or Pharm.D. Pharmacy school is usually four years in length although special programs offer a 3 year plan. During pharmacy school, you will have classroom lectures regarding pharmaceuticals and medical ethics. In addition, you will learn to apply those classroom skills in hospitals, clinics, or retail pharmacies under supervision from a licensed practitioner.

When should I apply to pharmacy school?
One must also know that the process of applying to pharmacy school is a long process. It usually takes about a year and a half from the time you start applying to actually matriculate into pharmacy school. Students need to think about when they want to start pharmacy school so that they know when they should apply. Generally, students apply during their junior or senior years of college. However, this decision is at the full discretion of the applicant and has no effect on whether you obtain admissions or not in a particular school.

Am I licensed after I graduate pharmacy school?
After graduating from pharmacy school, you must also pass two licensing exams to be a pharmacist. One of the exams tests your ability to practice in pharmaceuticals while the other exam tests your knowledge on pharmacy laws in the state you wish to practice.

{/slider}{slider=4. Finish a Residency Program (Optional, ~1-2 years)}

What is residency?
After obtaining your pharmacy license, you may still decide you want further training. If so, you can apply to a pharmacy residency program. These Residency programs last about a year or two and are usually for pharmacists who want advanced pharmacy positions such as a research position or a clinical pharmacist.


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